Opinion: My fellow American is evil

Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

When people look at political divisiveness, it is often common and acceptable to blame it on external factors: The media creates bias and hysteria, the pundits purposefully divide us, the candidates are becoming too extremist in their ideologies, the politicians refuse to cooperate and so on.

To be sure, these all have a place in explaining how the current state of politics came to be as it is. However, these considerations ignore other crucial forces in political discourse; they ignore the internal factors.

The internal factors are probably more important in a certain sense, too because every person has control over these factors in their own lives. There are three major areas of internal factors I want to discuss: political identity, political bias and what I am going to call political myth. My hopes in outlining them here are that you can guard yourself from falling into these patterns, and perhaps we can all change the discourse from bottom up.

Political identity is an obvious problem with the current discourse. At its core it is creating an understanding of personal identity and self, based on your political ideas and affiliations. This is incredibly harmful to political discourse because — unlike identities that are constructed by culture, or religion, or relationships, or shared history – political identity is the irrationality that turns individuals away from reasonable conclusions. Ultimately, your ideas aren’t in response to facts, it’s just who you are.

Fiscal policy should be based on economic analysis, and changed if new facts come to light. Political affiliation should be based on shared ideas, not shared identity. Just think about it: How many people consider being a feminist, conservative, liberal, Libertarian, Marxist or Black Live Matter supporter as integral parts of who they are? Affiliations and political philosophy based not on what the facts are, but on how people see themselves.

This leads to the second factor: political bias. Once you assume a political identity, you automatically see other affiliations as “other” to you, and distrust them.

This is why you may have been discouraged to make political affiliations known when applying to jobs or getting interviews. It’s well documented that this can affect your prospects far more than any other superficial trait like gender, race or even LGBT status. Conservatives are more willing to listen and work with other conservatives, and feminists are more willing to work with ideas from a “feminist perspective,” regardless of the topic. People become biased by label, instead of the content of the idea or character.

However, the most insidious factor are the political myths. To put it simply, political bias allows you to straw man outside ideas as more hideous than they actually are. A disagreement about tax policy becomes accusations of “hatred of the poor” or “communism.”

Pro-lifers are all “misogynists” with their “war of women and reproductive rights.” Pro-choicers are “baby killers” that “hate children and support eugenics.”

People who voted for this candidate are “racists and homophobes,” and their candidate are “liars and cheaters.” People who voted for the other candidate are “fascists.”

So, what’s the mindset stemming from a combination of these ugly political factors?

That a fellow American — due to basic differences in political ideology — is evil.

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].